Remembering Deir Yassin: The Future of Israel and Palestine
Deir Yassin Remembered: A Book and a MovementAl Jadid: A Review & Record of Arab Culture and Arts
"Remembering Deir Yassin: The Future of Israel and Palestine," edited by Daniel McGowan and Marc H. Ellis, published by Olive Branch Press, is a creative tribute seeking to bring to light the dark legacy of a massacre.
Ellis is a Jewish theologian and scholar whose writings include "Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation," and "O Jerusalem: Embracing the Jewish Covenant in Our Time." He has been a senior fellow at Harvard University. McGowan is professor of economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, and founder of the Deir Yassin Remembered project, which is an organization of "Jews and non-Jews" working to build a memorial at Deir Yassin on the west side of Jerusalem.
"The struggle to build a memorial to those massacred at Deir Yassin 50 years ago is a struggle to change both Israeli and Palestinian thinking," writes McGowan in the book's introduction. The book is composed of essays by contributors such as Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Palestinian poet and literary historian, and Meir Pa'il, a retired Israeli colonel who was an eyewitness at Deir Yassin.
The book's cover illustration—an original Arab building that still stands at Deir Yassin—is an oil painting by Ann Leggett that is being offered by silent auction, with the final bid benefiting the memorial project. In the book's opening pages, McGowan announces an international competition for design of the memorial, the winner of which will be offered a $50,000 prize, and a subsequent chapter contains projected landscape designs for such a future landmark.
What the scholars and activists are seeking to rescue from the oblivion of history and distortion is a violent, tragic and debated event that took place early in the morning of April 9, 1948, several weeks before the end of British Mandate rule in Palestine, as commandos of the Irgun and Stern Gang attacked the village of Deir Yassin and its 750 Palestinian residents. By the end of the day, over 100 were dead.
The name of the village was echoed over the land as a symbol of the massacre. "Remember Deir Yassin! has been a slogan of propaganda and it has been a battle cry," McGowan writes. "It is time for the real memory of Deir Yassin to be the medium for mutual recognition of two people living on the same land."
The price for dismissing that memory could be high according to Ellis, who writes: "The voices of those who suffered remain to haunt the victorious and to remind them that the cost of victory is high, a cost that may one day call the state into question and herald a new vision of inclusion and justice."
That vision necessitates mutual recognition of history's wounds, according to McGowan, who bids Palestinians, in turn, to visit the Israeli Holocaust memorial, which, ironically, is within eyeshot of Deir Yassin. "If Jews and Palestinians meet in the brokenness of their respective histories—at memorials at Deir Yassin and at Yad Vashem—then a healing of their histories might emerge while providing a model to the world for ending the cycle of violence."
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